BATON ROUGE, La. -- A legislative committee Wednesday took the first step toward shrinking some New Orleans courts by debating two controversial bills, although a compromise on one of the measures appears to put off any elimination of judges for several years.
Studies have shown that some New Orleans courts have too many judges and too little work. An Eyewitness Investigation Monday showed that one New Orleans Traffic Court judge held only two trials all of last year.
That was the backdrop for unanimous committee approval of two legislative bills earlier Wednesday.
A bill already adopted by the Senate to shrink juvenile court from six judges to four was approved without changes by a House committee.
But a House bill that would merge municipal and traffic courts was heavily amended. Instead of shrinking the number of combined judges from eight to six, the bill now calls for the creation of a task force to study how and when to best to consolidate the courts.
When we talked to the bill's author two weeks ago, he hinted that the compromise was in the works.
"So we're looking very closely with the judges at Municipal and Traffic Court and we're working through them to find some collaborative approach to dealing with the operations and what we're looking to do is to do this over a period of years as judges retire or move on," said state Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans.
Both bills now go the House floor for debate.